BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN I first drove Toyota’s C-HR compact SUV, I said there was a lot going on with the style. I wasn’t sure if it wouldn’t become dated quickly exactly because of that. A mild refresh in late 2019 didn’t make too many changes, so when I got the latest one a while back I found there is still a lot going on.
But you do get to like it.
Five years on from the car’s first arrival in Europe it has been averaging sales in the area in healthy annual six figures. In Ireland last year it was Toyota’s third-best seller, pipped out of the previous year’s second place by the surging sales of the Yaris Hybrid.
The looks are a mix of angles and sweeping Bezier curves, elements that suggest movement even when the car is at a standstill.
Everything is designed to turn heads, and the car still does that.
Seen in a rear-view mirror, that front has a very ‘coming at ya’ look, while the very deep rear spoiler substantially extends the apparent length of the car, and overall the sporty coupe proportions look spot on. Quick note — sometimes high-level rear door handles don’t work for me, but in the C-HR they do. The black and aluminium alloy wheels theme well with the overall style.
Inside, though a little less so, the drama is maintained. Strong shaping of the dashboard, deep instruments nacelles under a leather dash top, and an integrated screen that rises high from the centre stack.
My review car was the top of range GR Sport, so there was red stitching on the leather bits, and a degree of brightwork, plus shiny piano black details, leavened the overall dark trim. There are real knobs, buttons and switches where these should be, while the simple architecture of the touch-screen graphics is commendably of minimal distraction potential. My iPhone integrated easily, though with only one USB socket an adapter for the 12v outlet would be useful if there are more devices to be connected or charged.
An optimal seating position was easy to find, and a couple of longish day trips during my time with the car proved the seats to be comfortable both for driver and front passenger.
I wouldn’t anticipate any issues for those in the rear seats either. In overall size the C-HR is at the upper end of a segment set that includes the BMW X2 to the Mercedes-Benz B Sports Tourer. The boot offers an adequate 377L capacity.
The car was a hybrid, so included the benefit of an automatic transmission. There are options of two powertrains, the ICE elements being 1.8 and 2.0 respectively with outputs of 122hp/184hp. I found no reason to wish for the more powerful one. Highlight specification features included the electronic parking brake, dual-zone climate control, electrochromatic rear-view mirror, and heated front seats. All the driver assist elements you expect are there.
The driving experience was, as anticipated, as capable as they come, which is an important part of what Toyota is all about these days. I have colleagues who turn up their noses at CVT automatics, but in these latest iterations they are superb, seamless because that’s the nature of the technology, and contribute in no small part to a quiet and restful travel.
So, after this latest week in a C-HR, am I more comfortable with all that’s going on in the styling? Probably yes. But I’ll be very interested to see what they do in Generation 2.